It’s almost time for football!! I almost said that like I care. To be quite honest, I can’t stand football. I’ve never been able to understand the game, no matter how hard I try. Meat and Cheese? Now, that, I understand. I’m the MVP of meat and cheese boards. Seriously! I have been known to put together a wicked board for no reason at all. That’s just how I roll. Plenty of events hosted at my crib have involved a meat and cheese display…like this:
This beast was the APPETIZER for Thanksgiving 2016! LOTS of leftovers were taken home that year.
Here is the (3rd Place) winning entry for the Cut the Cheese Food Photography Contest.
I think this one was because last Saturday was a Saturday. As you can see, I don’t need a reason to break out the board.
But, when it comes to football games, you can expect to have guys (and gals) with appetites. For me, I want to be able to laugh at whoever’s team is losing without having to worry about replenishing appetizers. Cue the meat and cheese board. Hungry fans can pick and nibble their own combination of charcuterie and cheese without your having to fuss over them. Additional fruits and nuts round out the board for those who are still holding fast to those crazy New Year’s resolutions.
Since I’m a sharer, I want to impart my knowledge of how to construct your very own meat and cheese board. I’ve even made a video!
The most important part of a meat and cheese board is the board, right? No! It isn’t. It’s just a vessel for delivering what are the most important items- the meats and cheeses. A great board can make the display gorgeous, however. I always use my Boos Boards to display my set-ups, but here are some other suggestions:
- sheet pans: the aluminum trays actually work double-duty for carrying foods to and fro during set up.
- slate board: slates are perfect for a romantic evening if it’s just the two of you. The dark base provides just the right bit of romance- whoo hoooo!
- marble slab: these are perfect for keeping things classy.
You don’t need anything fancy. I’ve even gone über-rustic and just laid out a few sheets of parchment paper as a base. It just needs to be clean.
Now comes the fun part. The meats and cheeses you choose to add to your board are solely up to your discretion. I’ll give you a few of my favorites though and why each should be included on your board.
Gouda is actually pronounced “How-dah”. Since I’m not Dutch, I pronounce it, most often, “GOO-da”. Pair this semi-hard cheese with fruits like apples and pears. They’re smooth, yet tangy on the palate. Gouda can be made from sheep or cow’s milk, and is best enjoyed aged.
Cheddars are always a great cheese to include on your boards. The more mature (or aged) the cheddar, the more exciting the board, in my opinion. A 10 year old cheddar is a work of art. It’s sharp and meadowy in flavor. Serve this cheese with tart apples, cherries, and crackers.
Brie I have an affinity for brie. Bries are cow’s milk cheeses, although I’ve just recently fallen in love with goat’s milk bries. They are delicious with a side of caramelized onion jams, stewed cherries or figs. They play well with many foods due to their mild flavor.
Chèvre is a soft, tangy goat’s milk cheese. Since it’s gained popularity in many food markets, it’s easy to find chèvre in all sorts of flavors. Look for logs rolled in herbs, infused with berries, or covered in nuts. Serving with cored sweet peppers, or my favorite- peppadew peppers, to stuff the chèvre into is always a hit. A cracker topped with chèvre and a slice of guava paste is something out of this world. I promise.
Bleu (Blue) Cheeses are a touchy subject when it comes to certain crowds. I have two stinky cheese lovers in my family, so it’s a must for my boards. If you’re not into the penicillin-laced dairy, try a cheese that’s not aged as long. The sharp, salty flavors give way to that funky body odor smell the longer the cheese is aged. Bleus are perfect with honey, honeyed nuts, or ripe berries of all sorts.
A Wild Card cheese is a must. Explore your grocer’s cheese counter to discover new cheeses you’ve never heard of or tasted before. Always ask your cheesemonger for their favorites (and try a sample), they’re cheesemongers for a reason. Some of my favorite odd-ball cheeses are:
- Comte- a semi-hard, unpasteurized cow’s milk. I seriously contemplated giving up one of the Twinks for this cheese.
- Ossau Iraty- a semi-hard sheep’s milk which tastes like a sunlit meadow. If you could eat a meadow. I’m sorry I’m so awkward.
- Kunik- a soft cow’s cream and goat’s milk cheese. This one is a gem.
- Manchego- pair this firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese with any number of fruits and nuts.
- Camembert- another mild soft cow’s milk cheese; it’s similar to brie.
- Roquefort is another of the stinky-cheese persuasion. It’s a sheep’s cheese that pairs well with sweet foods.
Now, for the meats!
Prosciutto has a permanent place on my meat and cheese boards. My daughter started asking for prosciutto by name at the age of three. She started recognizing it before she recognized family members. We take charcuterie seriously in this family. Prosciutto is made from pork, which is the case with most of the meats I’ll recommend. I love serving this cured and aged meat wrapped around a chèvre-stuffed peppadew pepper.
Hard Salami such as sopressata, genoa, or pepperoni pair well with those hard, aged cheeses on our board. They seem to fit the bill for most hungry men, as well. Also, try meats like capicola and speck.
Chorizo you need to add as well. Those softer cheeses combined with this spiced sausage are a delight.
Pâté. Now keep an open mind. This forcemeat gets a bad wrap. Since I was forced (no pun intended) to make pounds of the stuff in culinary school, I’ve come to love it. A properly done pâté is an airy delicacy. Spread it on a toasted slice of baguette and top it with some of these caramelized onions. This is our trust fall. Go ahead, I’ll catch you.
Ripe Fruits are a must due to the fact that you have so many salty foods on the board. Add some of these:
- pitted dates
In addition to the fruits, you should include spreads and jams to act as a mediator of flavors. Cajeta, which is goat’s milk caramel, is sick when drizzled over a crackers topped with chèvre. Honey, fruit jams, spicy mustard, or caviar are great additions too.
Also try things like: olives, cornichons, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, and sweet peppers.
Now, does it seem like we have all this food, but not enough vessels to deliver it to our mouths? Well, we do, and we remedy that situation by throwing in some crisp slices of baguette bread and crackers.
Finally, make sure you have plenty of cheese knives and forks to serve with. Again, I’ve assembled my fair share of boards, so I’ve discovered that people are more apt to try when they know they have something familiar to start with. Labeling your cheeses with cheese picks, in addition to having copious amounts of wine or beer, are surefire ways to encourage people to eat.
Now all that’s left is for you to sit down and enjoy your game and your company. Oh! And to pin this for the next shindig!